A DISCOVERY IN A JUNGLE

PATLIDUN SAFARI LODGE, CORBETT

Every time there is an itch to escape somewhere on a weekend, Corbett National Park tops the list given its easy accessibility from New Delhi.  What else would a nature-lover choose where he could get lost in the woods to enjoy the sounds of silence?  The comfortable drive of five and a half hours gets picturesque as soon as one leaves the twin cities of Delhi & Noida behind.  The sugarcane & mustard fields provide quite a sight to the sore eyes and the only ‘must’ stop at Garjraula town en route is at UDUPI- a fantastic, well kept, value-for-money midway restaurant offering mouth-watering South Indian cuisine.  A quick bite of Upma and a filter-coffee had me energized for remaining 3 hours behind wheels.

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Just like one doesn’t like to eat in the same restaurant again, I have always had this urge to stay in different lodges for the sake of experiencing something new.  A friend had highly recommended a new kid on the block called PATLIDUN SAFARI LODGE and I jumped at the idea.  Off lately however I had been concerned about the hordes of hotels that were mushrooming near Bijrani gate to cater to a highly-demanding corporate crowd from big cities of Delhi & Gurgaon.  So the thought of seeing another one in the row that already had more than sixty, didn’t call for any excitement. How could these hotels inappropriately, disguised as lodges, host Disco nights in the jungles?  Where is the concern for Ecology? To sustain and survive, every one falls in the vicious trap as big groups mean good money and high occupancies.

I was not happy to see the signboard that said PATLIDUN amidst a long row of hotels that shared their walls with each other. Why could this one not be located somewhere else?  In the premises however, I realized it was just a facilitation area, where guests are served welcome drink, briefed about the lodge, leave their car behind and switch over to a tailor-made 4WD open-air rugged Scorpio for an adventurous uphill ride to the lodge, which is located a 15 minute drive away.  This was the beginning of the wow moment.

The stylish vehicle and the detailing gone into preparing me for this ride was indicating that I was in for a fabulous time. The narrow path that led up to the lodge was treacherous with big rocks on one side and deep valley on the other. While the distance is short, the maneuvering takes some time.  I was greeted on arrival and escorted through a staircase to this stunningly beautiful lounge with 360’ views of the forest all around.

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My lungs had craved for this fresh breeze for so long and the smell of dry leaves that  made crushing sound when I walked made me stay outdoors and not go to the room.  I wanted to throw myself here and get lost in the wilderness forever.  This was the kind of stuff the dreams are made of.  I walked around for an hour and explored the greens around the lodge. The sounds of the jungle I heard confirmed there was plenty of animal and birdlife around.  This was a heaven on earth I had waited for so long.  Finally I was in a place I could rate as one of the best I had come across in Corbett.

The most impressive aspect besides the location for me was the local architecture that defined the utterly spacious room.  Stand-alone huts have a huge bedroom, a sitting area, a backyard with a mini swimming pool, a terrace affording view of the mountains all around, and a front yard with basil plant in a cemented pot in the middle that is typical of Kumaoni homes. A perfect blend of luxury inside and local Kumaoni touch outside. Then there is antique furniture inside, Kumaoni wood used in the doors and bay windows, white local plaster on the walls – each of them giving an exquisite yet earthy and minimalistic look to the place.  A serious effort has gone into keeping the Kumaoni tradition alive.

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The path to my room had some very old and huge mango trees and half-eaten raw mangoes carpeted the path.  The parakeets had created a havoc as they ate less and damaged more.  The lodge Manager explained that the damaged fruit was a very small percentage of quintals of mangoes the lodge produced every summer.

To enjoy the luxury and comfort of the room, a 3 to 4 night stay is ideal.  I had planned a few village walks and crossing the river on a bamboo raft hence with a heavy heart, I left the lodge to return only in the night, which was quite late for me to indulge in any of the luxuries that the lodge had to offer.  The torch light ensured I reached my room though I must confess that I did throw the light all around me with the hope of spotting a jungle cat, a civet or a leopard.

I rose early the next morning as I had planned a two-hour long bird walk with the in-house naturalist, who had even spotted a tiger there just a week before. Before meeting him, I decided to go on the terrace and spent a good hour with the camera & tripod in spotting some beautiful birds.  My eyes were however looking for Asian Paradise Flycatcher that kept alluding me.

The tea/ coffee maker in the room came handy and I fixed myself a big cuppa.  It wouldn’t be fair on me not to use the pool but I had just 15 minutes to show up for the walk.  So with a promise to be back here again, I left my room with a heavy heart but deep inside I was happy to have found a lodge that met my expectations in every department.

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-Vagabond Shoes-
20 June’ 2014

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